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Archive for January 2010

canonicity

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When a certain book becomes a treasured object, when he wakes in a sweat about having lost it like he does about his passport, the stack of cash, or his Macbook Air.

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January 15, 2010 at 1:07 am

what katie roiphe missed

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It occurs to him, suddenly but while reading Handke, how much fiction writing must have changed – or at least should have changed – since the advent of ubiquitous pornography.

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January 15, 2010 at 1:05 am

fb

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The facebook update, and the low round of applause it brings: symptom of our meager times and meager, parent-applauded selves. “I visited the toy shop and didn’t buy anything!” Thumbs-up! “I am here where I am and can you see?!” Thumbs up! All of them! “I ate my whole dinner tonight!” Yay for you!

Desperation that inhibits work, or bends work back to the banal patter of mice running through the walls, clapping while they stop to gnaw.

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January 15, 2010 at 12:55 am

anomaly

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A beautiful but aging woman in front of Waterstones across the street from his office. She is talking on her mobile phone. Statuesque, perhaps an actress, perhaps a famous one. (He wouldn’t know). But impossible to imagine her ever having sex with anyone, so dignified is her beauty. In fact, her dignity makes the desire to have sex, let alone the practice of having sex, seem like a symptom of some sort of genetic anomaly, a mineral deficiency. Only deformed people do or want to do it, he walks away thinking.

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January 15, 2010 at 12:46 am

inwit

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He types:

The single word facebook post: Haiti. The reconstruction of the steps that this takes. The electronic immortality of the post.

But he can’t think of what else to say, let alone a title for the post. Armenians or the Albanians. But that’s too long a story to tell. And why bother? He has lost access both to sanctimony and its self-reflexive inversion. Or so it seems, fleetingly.

Instead he putters in his now usual morning circles – a cigarette outside, coffee, email, repeat. All the while he is resolving to resolve to be more efficient in the mornings – to be out the door or at least at work on something within an hour of waking.

Perhaps if, upon waking each morning, he turned on the television news, that would give him a better sense of time, would moor his mornings against the world outside, and he would get out the door more swiftly.

Then he writes his own facebook post, a link to a book review that he has written for a magazine.

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January 14, 2010 at 9:10 am

handke / letraset

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Handke does advert-people a few times in TWoftheW:

Walking across the city. In the gaps left open by the masses of cars there are still a few isolated individuals, ashen pale or flushed, in incompatible states, and these people have subjected themselves to politics or world history, and amid the technological din they go around posing (like the figures shown in architectural drawings) at the foot of gigantic buildings, which are the essential while they are mere incidentals; moving through this catastrophe as through an underground hangar, I try to breathe everything in through my eyes, to preserve within me the forlorness of these people.

Here’s another:

Advertisements for houses in artificial villages (“domaines“). The accompanying sketches show the latest conception of paradise: a father beaming from ear to ear as he strolls down a garden path with a child on his shoulders; slanting beach umbrellas; outside the house, slim young men arrange chairs for a party: “Here you will live from year’s end to year’s end as if you were on vacation” (none of the figures in these sketches has both feet on the ground – they are much too happy for that)

Brilliant, that last parenthetical bit. Hard to say just where the interest in these figures comes from, though I’ve tried before. One shouldn’t talk about fiction in general trying to do things, i.e. awarding the genre itself with desires and aspirations, but I do believe / pretend that it has been trying to enact a nearly impossible foreground / background reversal for quite awhile now. These ad-people

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January 12, 2010 at 1:20 pm

Posted in ads, aggregate, fiction, handke

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At 10 years old, he was more eloquent than his parents’ friends. They would say, “God, how eloquent! How well informed!” But he was just repeating what he read in Newsweek. And look, now, what it’s all come to.

***

Sympathy and schadenfreude for the ex-teenage savant. They get what they deserve, these next Einsteins and Beethovens. But that can’t be right.

***

His parents wanted him socialized, and socialized in a way that they could understand. They would not send him to a school that served quiche, for they said, rightly, that there was no way that their son would eat quiche for lunch.

***

One morning, when his grandmother was staying to keep an eye on him, he vomited into a bucket in the basement, a bucket that his best friend (who had slept over the night before) had already vomited into. His grandmother had to smell it on them: the mingled puke, the Canadian Club. But she never said a word as she served them pancakes and bacon.

***

They gave intelligence tests at his school. When he asked them what it might mean that he had attained what was listed as the “maximum score” they changed the subject. Earlier that day he had put away the folding chairs and folding tables from Bingo the night before, and still smelled of the lingering smoke during the meeting about his scores on the test.

***

Once he blew a no-hitter (albeit against a black school, a Newark school) with two outs in the seventh inning. His future wife didn’t understand why he was so upset. Someone had finally hit the slider.

***

He recently described himself to someone as “too eloquent for [his] own good.” And then wanted to explain, in detail, just what he meant.

***

He would make his friend lose track meets. They would drink and he would lose, come in tenth or eleventh. He keeps people late; that is another one of his skills.

***

One of the things that he is most ashamed of is breaking a beer bottle in a children’s playground. He wonders if toddlers ended up with glass in their hands and feet. His friends shook their heads, and one told her parents. It was graduation and they were bound for different high schools in the fall.

***

Eloquence can be harnessed into lying, but not without loss of consonance on other occasions.

***

Years later, someone (just back from Iraq, Marine infantry) told him that he had fingerfucked Liz in the backseat of a car. There were only seventeen kids in his graduating class. It was a dying Catholic primary school, at least back then.

***

Fantasies of return. But he’d only give his little speech and then go home. No one would stay after to talk.

***

The only way he could imagine himself on television is making a grand apology for a grand sin.

***

Even now, his grandmother defers to him. She knows his type, and keeps her distance, conversationally. She also fixed his coat with needle and thread. The pockets, the buttons…

***

At confession, rather than admitting to masturbation, he would tell the priest that he said mean things to his mother. Which was a lie.

***

The cats miss him. They purr and fleece against him when he comes around.

***

Depending on the specific circumstances, rationalization of his behavior can take up almost all of his mental energy. Nothing, or almost nothing, left for work or care.

***

On a Florida highway, on the first day of a new decade, his father apologized to him for how he brought him up. “I always wanted you to be the best, at everything, but I did it wrong. I know that now.”

***

Just now, while smoking outside, he decided he would write “Last night while smoking he saw a fox on the street and thought ‘I am hungrier and faster than him.'” But as he finished the thought about what he would write, a fox ambled by, perhaps the same, but definitely fatter and slower than the night before.

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January 12, 2010 at 3:56 am